Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Pioneering the Sky: Air Mail in Nebraska, 1920-1941
by Alonso, Kathleen, M.A., University of Nebraska at Omaha, 2013, 136; 1542260
Abstract (Summary)

The development of commercial aviation was a defining characteristic of the post-World War I era. The Post Office played a key role in that process by using warplanes and war-trained aviators to initiate the Air Mail Service in 1918. By 1920, a transcontinental air mail route spanned the nation from New York to San Francisco. Over the ensuing years, the continuing expansion of the nation's air mail network was a pivotal catalytic force in the development of a wide array of new aviation technologies, including aircraft design improvements, enhanced navigational and communication systems, and mechanisms for night-flying capabilities.

In close collaboration with the Air Mail Service, cities and towns throughout Nebraska made significant contributions to all of these developments during the 1920s and 30s. Omaha and North Platte built airfields that became key stops along the original transcontinental air mail route, while Grand Island and Lincoln would be added to the network in subsequent years. And throughout this period, smaller towns and villages, and thousands of rural Nebraska residents, expressed their enthusiastic support for aviation in countless ways, reflected most notably by the dozens of farm families who assisted pilots who were forced to make emergency landings in fields and pastures scattered around the state.

Nebraska also proved to be an ideal proving ground for the new Air Mail Service. The state's low population density, relatively level terrain, and access to the broad and familiar Platte River valley bisecting the Great Plains made it attractive for experimentation with all sorts of new developments in aviation during this period, particularly in the realm of night flying capabilities and enhanced radio transmissions. Nebraska's connections to the Air Mail Service were further solidified when the nation celebrated National Air Mail Week in 1938. Dozens of towns across Nebraska participated enthusiastically in the week-long commemoration of the service's 20th anniversary, making the event a fitting tribute to the early airborne pioneers who established the aerial transportation system that we take for granted today.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Scherer, Mark
Commitee: Simmons, Jerold, Tarry, Scott
School: University of Nebraska at Omaha
Department: History
School Location: United States -- Nebraska
Source: MAI 52/01M(E), Masters Abstracts International
Subjects: American history
Keywords: Air Mail, Aviation, National Air Mail Week, Nebraska
Publication Number: 1542260
ISBN: 978-1-303-26671-3
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